Fall of London: Britain’s military decline reveals collapse of NATO’s credibility and capabilities

NATO’s plan to dramatically increase its forward strength is wishful thinking, and the UK’s fight for military relevance is a perfect example.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg recently announced the US-led military bloc’s goal of expanding its so-called « response force » from its current strength of 40,000 to a strength of over 300,000 soldiers. “We will reinforce our battlegroups in the eastern part of the Alliance up to brigade level,” said Stoltenberg. « We will transform the NATO Response Force and increase the number of our high readiness forces to over 300,000. »

The announcement, made at the end of NATO’s annual summit, held in Madrid, Spain, apparently took several NATO member defense officials by surprise, including one them calling Stoltenberg figures « the magic of numbers ». Stoltenberg appeared to be working from a concept that had been developed at NATO headquarters based on assumptions made by his aides, as opposed to anything resembling a coordinated policy between the defense organizations of the 30 nations that make up the block.

Confusion is the name of the game at NATO these days, with the alliance still reeling from last year’s Afghan debacle and unable to adequately disguise the helplessness shown in the face of the military operation. Russian in progress in Ukraine. The bloc is now a shadow of its former self, a pathetic collection of underfunded military organizations more suited to the parade ground than the battlefield. No military organization represents this colossal collapse of credibility and capability more than the British Army.

Even before the onset of the current Ukrainian crisis, the British military served more as an object of derision than a model of professionalism. Take, for example, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace’s visit to Zagreb, Croatia in early February 2022. Croatian President Zoran Milanovic has accused the British of trying to incite Ukraine into a war with Russia, instead of trying to address Russia’s concerns. on the existing European security framework. Wallace flew to Zagreb for consultations, only to be reprimanded by Milanovic, who refused to meet him, noting that he had only met with superpower defense ministers, adding that « The UK has left the EU, which makes it less important. »

But London continues to put a brave face on a grim reality. Take, for example, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s offer of written security guarantees to Sweden and Finland. These pledges were intended to bolster the resolve of the two Nordic nations as they considered their applications for NATO membership.

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But there was no substance to the British offer, if for no other reason than the British had nothing in terms of viable military capability to offer the Swedes or the Finns. Even as Johnson extended the proverbial hand of aid to his new Nordic allies, the British Ministry of Defense grappled with planned force reductions that would see the British Army cut off from its current « established strength » from 82,000 to 72,500 by 2025 (Actual British Army strength is around 76,500, reflecting continued recruitment and retention difficulties.)

Even these figures are misleading – the British Army is only able to generate one fully combat-ready maneuver brigade (3,500-4,000 men with all necessary equipment and support). Given that the UK is already on the hook for a reinforced battalion-sized ‘battle group’ to be deployed to Estonia as part of the so-called Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) posture of the NATO (joining three other « battlegroups » of similar size » fielded by the United States in Poland, Germany in Lithuania and Canada in Latvia), it is debatable whether the British could even accomplish this limited task .

The deployment to Estonia last month of a battle group consisting of the 2 Rifles Infantry Regiment underscores the pathos that defines true British military capability. The 2-gun battle group comprises the three infantry companies and one fire support company integral to the unit, as well as artillery, engineering, logistics and medical elements. France and Denmark alternately provide a company-sized unit to the British-led battle group. In total, the British battle group comprises some 1,600 troops and is fully integrated with the Estonian 2nd Infantry Brigade.

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Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg visit the conference site before the start of the NATO summit in Madrid.  © Bernd von Jutrczenka / picture alliance via Getty Images
NATO has completed its post-Cold War transformation from Europe’s watchdog to America’s attack dog

Given what we now know of the reality of modern warfare, thanks to the ongoing Russian operation in Ukraine, the British battlegroup would have a life expectancy on a real European battlefield of less than a week. So would his allies in the 2nd Estonian Infantry Brigade. First, the units lack durability, both in terms of the personnel and equipment losses that could be anticipated if subjected to combat, or the basic logistical support needed to fire, move or communicate on the field. of modern battle. Artillery is the king of battle, and the British and Estonians are lacking when it comes to generating enough tubes to counter the overwhelming fire support that should be generated by any hostile Russian force.

Stoltenberg’s hypothetical 300,000-strong Response Force plans to expand existing battle groups into brigade-sized formations, ironically tasking the British with generating more combat power at a time when they seek actively to reduce their overall workforce. While the British might be able to scrape enough substance from the bottom of the barrel, so to speak, to accomplish this projected reinforcement, there would literally be nothing left to back Boris Johnson’s bold offer of substantial military assistance to the Sweden and Finland, leaving the British Prime Minister looking more like the captain of the Titanic after he hit the iceberg, issuing directives and acting as if his words had an impact, as his ship sank.


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